When attending an event at a performing arts center, we usually don’t think about production costs. Most of us assume the price of our ticket covers expenses. In reality, most arts centers cannot survive solely on ticket sales; they rely on a development director to procure financing through the creation of a strategic plan for fundraising, major gifts, special events, sponsorships and other sources.
Recently Stony Brook University’s Staller Center, one of Long Island’s premier venues, was seeking a creative person to serve as its development director. As luck would have it, one of Stony Brook’s MBA students, Katie Stockhammer of Ronkonkoma, was looking for a career in the arts in an educational setting. It was the perfect match.
Early on, Katie had established herself as a key player at the Long Island Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), where she was their campaign director. At LLS Katie managed a multi-million dollar portfolio, oversaw a staff of five and a volunteer roster of more than 5,000 people. She also had a very personal connection to LLS.
In 1998, when she was just 16 years old, Katie noticed a swelling above her collarbone. “I told my mother about it, and then immediately had a CAT scan,” Katie says. They found a tumor in her chest and she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Katie and her family were living in Florida at the time, but within a week they were at Sloan Kettering in New York City where Katie underwent chemotherapy treatments. She continued with a regimen of radiation, a stem cell harvest procedure, surgery and more. Katie faced her cancer head-on, even dying her hair blue, knowing that all her hair would fall out. Though she was just a teenager, she sensed the emotional toll her illness was taking on her parents. “It was easier being me than being them,” she recalls. “There was nothing they could do [to make the cancer go away].”
Katie says her fight against Hodgkin’s gave her a different outlook on life. “I learned so much about myself and the people around me,” Katie adds. “It gave me a lot of perspective.”
Her experience also inspired her to help raise awareness about LLS and advocate for others with the disease.
“I was really passionate about working at LLS,” she says, “and I enjoyed the fundraising and development side of my job.”
The LLS organization was very close to her heart, but Katie wanted to pursue a career in the arts. “I loved my time there but I was ready to go to the next step,” she says. “I’m a very ambitious person, and I wanted to see where it could take me.”
Now as the director of development, she has a lot on her shoulders. She’s responsible for securing the funds to support the Staller Center and the university’s departments of art, music and theater arts, as well as its faculty performers. With her deep passion for the arts and her experience in fundraising, Katie sees her role as an ideal opportunity to be an integral part of a team that will lead the Staller Center to their next phase of development.
Katie also seeks to ensure that the center continues to bring high caliber shows, films, arts education and culture to the Long Island community through the fundraising, membership and donor stewardship activities that she oversees.
Though Long Island may still be mired in the economic downturn, corporate giving remains a mainstay for the center. “My role is to elevate their giving and to help the center reach their long term and immediate needs,” Katie says. She’s confident that people interested in the arts will continue to support the center, and by keeping the offerings at Staller top notch, they will attract a steady audience.
Her enthusiastic approach to her work will likely result in new and innovative ideas that will create meaningful art experiences all Long Islanders can enjoy. “This is the perfect world for me,” Katie says.